Sophie had been looking forward to this holiday for months.
Earlier in the year, she'd summoned the courage to tell her boss in no uncertain terms "I'm going overseas, later this year. May I please use my outstanding holiday time then?"
She'd been rebuffed. Her workplace sucked big time. While it took a great deal of courage for Sophie to book the trip anyway and resign from her position, she was still pretty nervous about it.
There were plenty of other young women quitting their day jobs and going travelling, but Sophie wondered what her family and friends were thinking (and saying) about her decision.
Working had really put a dent in her confidence - she seemed to lack any real enthusiasm for anything these days. Hopefully the trip of a lifetime would change all that and put her back on the right path.
Since she was a little girl. Sophie had always been fascinated by Transylvania and the intrigue around vampires and the region's dark history.
She'd never really had the patience to read too much, but she certainly found the whole impression of Transylvania a real mystery. Some would say alluring.
Sophie had spent hours researching the trip. She wanted to visit a number of the castles in the area. Transylvania covered much of central Romania, with a range of important buildings dating back hundreds of years. Dracula's Castle was to be a particular highlight.
In the end she had decided on a tour of the region. She felt that it was relatively good value, and she would be able to link up with others who are interested in the same things. Sophie wasn't overly worried about her personal safety, but her parents' were very wary for her. She was an only child, so she could understand why - but it was still annoying.
Sophie had booked a flight directly into Bucharest, where she was to meet the tour group. She was hoping that there might be some younger people on the trip and that it wouldn't contain all old couples.
When she first found the tour group, she began to get a little worried. She could only see men and women over 70, and she felt this didn't bode well for the next two weeks.
Just before she lost complete hope, she found another young woman.
"Are you on the Transylvanian trip too? My name is Eliza." said Eliza.
"I'm Sophie. Pleased to meet you."
"I was getting a little concerned that it would just be more 'experienced' travellers on this tour, Sophie. Luckily I get to spend some time with someone I might have more in common with!"
Eliza proceeded to regale Sophie with her past all the way up to her current situation.
"... And so now I'm taking some time off before I start working in Daddy's business. Of course, I shouldn't say that, but I've done my time in the corporate world and now I can relax before stepping up for the family."
Eliza had an English accent. And she seemed to lean in a little to Sophie as she spoke. Sophie felt a little cramped for space, but everytime she moved further away, Eliza would follow her.
So Sophie did have some hope for the trip after all. While Eliza may prove a little too much, she suspected, at least she was someone Sophie could talk to.
The group of 20 were called in together and hustled to their minibus. If Romanian traffic was going to be anything like the airport, they were in for a rough ride!
After an hour's travel, the travel group arrived at the hotel. Unfortunately, there had been a mix up with the bookings, and Sophie and Eliza were put in the same room. Sophie liked her space, but Eliza didn't seem to mind one bit.
Sophie had no problems with her body image - she was regularly complimented from both genders. Perhaps it was her upbringing, but she thoroughly enjoyed the quiet and being alone. Obviously that wasn't going to happen on the first night.
To her surprise, they were called down early for dinner. It was starting to get dark at 5:30 local time and the group were going to a local restaurant. Serving local produce and dishes from across the region.
The place seemed a little drab to Sophie. Upon entering, the walls were dark red, with tattered curtains. Old paintings of seemingly important people hung on the walls. Most images seemed to be decades old at the least. Nothing was from the 1970's onwards.
Romanian cuisine was heavily influenced by the Ottoman Turks. Much of the entrees available and the dinner itself appeared to consist of cured meats and sausages. Sophie didn't like to eat too much meat, but it looked like she wouldn't have a choice that night.
Sophie ended up sharing dinner with the table. This meant she could sample a range of the flavours, and felt it was more 'travel-like' to try new things. Most of it was not particularly to her liking, but she ate it nonetheless. The long plane journey had made her hungry. Hungry enough to eat what appeared to be a pair of pig's ears!
Filling her goblet with the local red wine for the third time, Sophie started looking at those around her. The locals seemed to be having a good time, and clearly the establishment was quite popular. The locals were a little shorter than the Australians she was used to - and they all seemed to have darkly tanned skin. Everyone was lean, with only the elderly putting on some extra pounds in their vintage.
The lights started to change, with the tables losing some and the main space in the middle of the restaurant getting much brighter.
On came some entertainers. They looked like a family. An older man and woman were accompanied by a young girl and an older boy. She looked about 10, while he was early 20's.
The two older Romanian entertainers started playing some music out of self-fashioned instruments. Sophie wasn't sure what they were, but they were guitar-like and were played beautifully. It was clear that they had been playing with this instrument for a very long time, and Sophie felt privileged to be able to hear their music.
The two children were dancing traditionally. The girl was very cute in her full costume. Sophie smiled. The boy (or man as Sophie felt she should have thought of him) was dancing enthusiastically. He clearly enjoyed doing what he loved.
Sophie began to study him a bit closer. He was very good looking. Quite tall. with the standard radiant Romanian tan. His dark hair was cropped short, and he looked like he had a physical job. Even through his layered clothing, his muscles were defined and bursting at the seams.
"Who's he? Not a bad start to the trip, getting a look at that tasty morsel." Eliza whispered in Sophie's ear.
Sophie found herself staring at the Romanian's hips as they gyrated in perfect time with the music. What was wrong with her? She was supposed to be looking forward to sightseeing - not gawking like an animal at the local dancer!
The wine had got to Sophie. She could think of nothing else but the beautiful Romanian dancer with bulging muscles.
Her mind raced, and she began to think of being wrapped in his impressive arms. Sophie began to wonder what he did during the day. Was he a farmer?
Sophie imagined tilling the fields with the handsome foreigner. Playing in the fields... She'd clearly had too much wine. Her friends had always told her not to go too hard too early, but she hadn't listened this time.
The lights faded out, and the audience clapped. The entertainers filed out. It was late.
Sophie's group paid the bill and left the restaurant.
Halfway back to the hotel. Sophie realised that she forgot her jacket. It would be needed the next day, and was just about her favourite piece of clothing. Instead of notifying the group leader, she just turned around and retraced her steps.
As she got right near the restaurant, she saw a figure lean over and pick up some clothing off the ground. It was her jacket. Her favourite jacket! She wasn't sure if she should say anything in a different land, late at night and not knowing enough about the culture.
The figure looked up - it was the Romanian dancer.
"Is this your coat?" he said.
"Yes... Thank you" Sophie replied.
"Is fine. Were you in the audience this night?"
"Yes. You were very impressive. Was that your family"?
"Yes. It was my father, my mother and my sister."
The dancer passed Sophie her jacket. She felt his hands as it was passed over. She felt the electricity, and a wave of longing.
Sophie thanked the dancer again and turned to walk away.
For some reason, Sophie felt like she hadn't seen the last of this dancer.
I understand this is fiction, but you have some factual mistakes here. First, you are using the picture of Peles Castle, which is not Dracula's Castle & not located in Transylvania. Then, Romanians are not dark skinned. If you are referring to the gypsy minority, you should know they make only a small percentage of the country's population and not generalize their description calling them Romanians. And the most annoying part - we do not eat the pig's ears.